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					nick cave
lecture: "the love song"
sept. 25th, atelierhaus der akademie der bildenden künste

Ladies and gentlemen,


          To be invited to come here and teach, to lecture, to impart what knowledge I have
collected about poetry, about song writing has left me with a whole host of conflicting
feelings. The strongest, most insistent of these concerns my late father who was English
Literature teacher at the high school I attended back in Australia. I have very clear
memories of being about twelve years old and sitting, as you are now, in a classroom or
school hall, watching my father, who would be standing, up here, where I am standing, and
thinking to myself, gloomily and miserably, for, in the main, I was a gloomy and miserable
child, "It doesn´t really matter what I do with my life, as long as I don´t end up like my
father." At forty years old i would appear that there is virtually no action I can take that
does not draw me closer to him, that does not make me more like him. At forty years old I
have become my father. And here I am. Teaching.
          What I wanted to do here was to talk a bit about "The Love Song", to speak about
my own personal approach to this genre of songwriting which I believe has been at the
very heart of my particular artistic quest. I want to look at some other works that, for
whatever reason, I think are sublime achievements in this most noble of artistic pursuits:
the creation of the great love song.
         Looking back at these last twenty years , certain clarity prevails. Midst the
madness and the mayhem, it would seem I have been banging on one particular drum. I
see that my artistic life has centered around an attempt to articulate the nature of an
almost palpable sense of loss that has laid claim to my life. A great gaping hole was
blasted out of my world by the unexpected death of my father when I was nineteen years
old. The way I learned to fill this hole, this void, was to write. My father taught me this as if
to prepare me for his own passing. To write allowed me direct access to my imaginatioon,
to inspiration and ultimately to God. I found through the use of language, that I wrote God
into existence. Language became the blanket that I threw over the invisible man, that gave
him shape and form. The actualising of God through the medium of the Love Song
remains my prime motivation as an artist. The Love Song is perhaps the trues and most
distinctive human gift for recognising God and a gift that God himself needs. God gave us
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this gift in order that we speak and sing Him alive because God lives within
communication. If the world was to suddenly fall silent God would deconstruct and die.
Jesus Christ himself said, in one of His most beautiful quotes, "Where ever two or more
are gathered together, I am in your midst." He said this because where ever two or more
are gathered together there is language. I found that language bacame a poultice to the
wounds incurred by the death of my father. Language became a salve to longing.
          Though the Love Song comes in many guises - songs of exultation and praise,
songs of rage and of despair, erotic songs, songs of abandonment and loss - they all
address God, for it is the haunted premises of longing that the true Love Song inhabits. It
is a howl in the void, for love and for comfort and it lives on the lips of the child crying for
his mother. It is the song of the lover in need of her loved one, the raving of the lunatic, the
supplicant petitioning his God. It is the cry of one chained to the earth, to the ordinary and
to the mundane, craving flight; a flight into inspiration and imagination and divinity. The
Love Song is the sound of our endeavours to become God-like, to rise up and above the
earthbound and the mediocre.
          The loss of my father, I found, created in my life a vacuum, a space in which my
words began to float and collect and find their purpose. The great W.H. Auden said "The
so-called traumatic experience is not an accident, but the opportunity for which the child
has been patiently waiting - had it not occurred, it would have found another - in order that
its life become a serious matter." The death of my father was the "traumatic experience"
Auden talks about that left the hole for God to fill. How beautiful the notion that we create
our own personal catastrophes and that it is the creative forces within us that are
instrumental in doing this. We each have a need to create and sorrow is a creative act.
The Love Song is a sad song, it is the sound of sorrow itself. We all experience within us
what the Portuguese call Suadade, which translates as an inexplicable sense of longing,
an unnamed and enigmatic yearning of the soul and it is this feeling that lives in the realms
of imagination and inspiration and is the breeding ground for the sad song, for the Love
Song is the light of God, deep down, blasting through our wounds.
          In his brilliant lecture entitled "The Theory and Function of DUENDE", Frederico
Garcia Lorca attempts to shed some light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives
in the heart of certain works of art. "All that has dark sounds has duende", he says, "that
mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain." In contemporary
rock music, the area in which I operate, music seems less inclined to have it´s soul,
restless and quivering, the sadness that Lorca talks about. Excitement, often; anger,
sometimes; but true sadness, rarely. Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals
specifically in it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog and though he tries to he cannot
escape it. Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. It haunts Polly Harvey. My friend the
Dirty 3 have it by the bucket load. The band Spiritualised are excited by it. Tindersticks
desperately want it, but all in all it would appear that duende is too fragile to survive the
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brutality of technology and the ever increasing acceleration of the music industry. Perhaps
there is just no money in sadness, no dollars in duende. Sadness or duende needs space
to breathe. Melancholy hates haste and floats in silence. It must be handled with care.
         All Love Songs must contain duende. For the Love Song is never truly happy. It
must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having
within their lines an ache or a sigh are not Love Songs at all but rather Hate Songs
disguised as Love Songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness
and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The Love Song
must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who
refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly
about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted
unless it has breathed the same air as evil - the enduring metaphor of Christ crucified
between two criminals comes to mind here - so within the fabrio of the Love Song, within
it´s melody, it´s lyric, one must sense an acknowledgement of its capacity for suffering.
         In Lou Reed´s remarkable song "Perfect Day" he writes in near diary form the
events that combine to make a "Perfect Day". It is a day that resonates with the bold
beauty of love, where he and his lover sit in the park and drink Sangria, feed animals in the
zoo, go to a movie show etc., but it is the lines that lurk darkly in the third verse, "I thought
I was someone else, someone good" that transforms this otherwise sentimental song into
the masterpiece of melancholia that it is. Not only do these lines ache with failure and
shame, but they remind us in more general terms of the transient nature of love itself - that
he will have his day "in the park" but, like Cinderella, who must return at midnight to the
soot and ash of her disenchanted world, so must return at midnight to the soot and ash of
her disenchanted world, so must he return to his old self, his bad self. It is out of the void
that this song springs, clothed in loss and longing.
         Around the age of twenty I started reading the Bible and I found in the brutal prose
of the Old Testament, in the feel of it´s words and it´s imagery an endless source of
inspiration. The Song of Solomon, perhaps the greatest love song ever written, had a
massive impact upon me. It´s openly erotic nature, the metaphoric journey taken around
the lovers´ bodies - breasts compared to bunches of grapes and young deer, hair and
teeth compared to flocks of goats and sheep, alegs like pillars of marble, the navel, a
round goblet, the belly, a heap of wheat - it´s staggering imagery rockets us into the world
of pure imagination. Although the two lovers are physically seperate - Solomon is excluded
from the garden where his belove sings - it is the wild, obsessive projections of one lover
onto another that dissolve them into a single being, constructed from a series of rapturous
love-metaphors.
         The Song of Solomon is an extraordinary love song but it was the remarkable
series of love song/ poems known as the Psalms that truly held me. I found the Psalms,
which deal directly with the relationship between man and God, teaming with all the
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clamorous desperation, longing, exultation, erotic violence and brutality that I could hope
for. The Psalms are soaked in suadade, drenched in duende and bathed in bloody-minded
violence. In many ways these songs became the blue-print for much of my more sadistic
love songs. Psalm 137, a particular favourite of mine and which was turned into a chart hit
by the fab little band Boney M. is a perfect example of all I have been talking about.


                                            Psalm 137


                               By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
                                yea, wo wept. when we remembered Zion
                   2. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
                              3. For there they that carried us away captive
                             required of us a song; and they that wasted us
                                          required of us mirth, saying
                                      Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
                        4. How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?
               5. Il I forget thee, O Jerusalem. Let my right hand forget her cunning.
                           6. If I do not remember thee. let my tongue cleave
                                    to the roof of my mouth: if I prefer not
                                        Jerusalem above my chief joy
                                      7. Remember, O lord, the children
                               Of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said
                             Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
                           8. 0 daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
                   happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
                              9. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth
                                            thy littlo on against the stones.



         The Love Song must be born into the realm of the irrational, the absurd, the
distracted, the melancholic, the obsessive, the insane for the Love song is the noise of
love itself and love is, of course, a form of madness. Whether it be the love of God, or
romantic, erotic love - these are manifestations of our need to be torn away from the
rational, to take leave of our senses, so to speak. Love Songs come in many guises and
are seemingly written for many reasongs - as declarations or romantic love, lamentations
or petitions to God, for revenge or praise, to flatter or to wound - I have written songs for
all of these reasons - but ultimately the Love Songs exists to fill, with language, the silence
between ourselves and God, to decrease the distance between the temporal and the
divine.
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         In Psalm 137 the poet finds himself captive in " a strange land" and is forced to
sing a song of Zion. He swears his love to his homeland and reams of revenge. The Psalm
is ghastly in it´s violent sentiments, as he sings for love of his homeland and his God and
that he may be made happy by murdering the children of his enemies. What I found, time
and time again, in the Bible, especially the Old Testament, was that verses of rapture, of
ecstasy and love could hold within them apparently opposite sentiments - hate, revenge,
bloody mindedness etc, that they were not mutually exclusive. This idea has left an
enduring impression on my songwriting.
         Within the world of modern pop music, a world that deals ostensibly with the Love
Song, but in actuality does little more that hurl dollops of warm, custard-coloured babby-
vomit down the air-waves, true sorrow is not welcome. But ocassionally a song comes
along that hides behind it´s disposable, plastic beat a love lyric of truly devastating
proportions. "Better The Devil You Know" written by hit-makers Stock, Altkin and
Waterman and sung by the Australian pop sensation Kylie Minnogue is such a song. The
disclosing or disguising of the terror of love in a piece of mindless, innocuous pop music is
an intriguing concept. "Better The Devil You Know" is one of pop music most violent and
distressing love lyrics.


                            BETTER THE DEVIL YOU KNOW


                             Say you wont leave me no more
                                    I'll take you back again
                                 No more excuses, no. no
                             Causo I've heard thom all before
                                  A hundred times or more
                                      I'll forgive and forgot
                                  If you say you'll naver go
                               Cause it´s true what they say
                                 Better the devil you know
                                   Our love wasn't perfect
                              I know, I think I know the score
                                You say you love me, O boy
                                       I can´t ask for more
                                 I'll come if you should call


                                    I'll be here every day
                               Waiting for your love to show
                               Cause it's true what they say
                               It's better the devil you know
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                                         I'll take you back
                                   I'll take you back again



         When Kylie Minogue sings these words there is an innocence to her voice that
makes the horror of this chilling lyric all the more compelling. The idea presented within
this song, dark and sinister and sad - that all love relationships are by nature abusive and
that this abuse, be it physical or psychological, is welcomed and encouraged, shows how,
even the most innocuous of love songs has the potential to hide terrible human truths. Like
Prometheus chained to his rock so that the eagle can eat his liver each night, Kylie
becomes love´s sacrificial lamb bleating an earnest invitaion to the drooling, ravenous wolf
that he may devour her time and time again, all to a groovy techno beat. "I´ll take you
back. I´ll take you back, again". Indeed. Here the Love Song becomes a vehicle for a
harrowing portrait of humanity not dissimilar to that of the Old Testament Psalms. Both are
messages to God that cry out into the yawning void, in anguish and self-loathing, for
deliverance.
         As I said earlier, my artistic life has centered around the desire or more accurately,
the need, to articulate the various feelings of loss and longing that have whistled through
my bones and hummed in my blood, throughout my life. In the process I have written
about two hundred songs, the bulk of which, I would day, were Love Songs. Love Songs,
and thereofre, by my definition, sad songs. Out of this considerable mass of material, a
handful of them rise above the others as true examples of all I have talked about. Sad
Waters, Black Hair, I Let Love In, Deanna, From Her To Eternity, Nobody´s Baby Now,
Into my Arms, Lime Tree Arbour, Lucy, Straight to You. I am proud of these songs. They
are my gloomy, violent, dark-eyed children. They sit grimly on their own and do not play
with the other songs. Mostly they were the offspring of complicated pregnancies and
difficult and painful births. Most of them are rooted in direct personal experience and were
conceived for a variety of reasons but this rag-tag group of love-songs are, at the death,
all the same thing - life-lines thrown into the galaxies of the divine by a drowning man.
          The reasons why I feel compellled to sit down and write Love Songs are legion.
Some of these came clearer to me when I sat down with a friend of mine, who for the sake
of his anonymity I will refer to as J.J. and I admitted to each other that we both suffered
from psychological disorder that the medical profession call erotographomania.
Erotographomania is the obsessive desire to write Love Letters. My friend shared that he
had written and sent, over the last five years, more than seven thousand Love Letters to
his wife. My friend looked exhausted and his shame was almost palpable. I suffer from the
same disease but happily have yet to reach such an advanced stage as my poor friend J.
We discussed the power of the Love Letter and found that it was, not surprisingly, very
similar to the Love song. Both served as extended meditations on ones beloved. Both
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served to shorten the distance between the writer and the recipricant. Both held within
them a permanence and power that the spoken word did not. Both were erotic exercises,
in themselves. Both had the potential to reinvent, through words, like Pygmalion with his
self-created lover of stone, one´s beloved. Alas, that most endearing form of
correspondence, the Love Letter, like the Love Song has suffered at the hands of the cold
speed of technology, at the carelessness and soullessness of our age.
        I would like to look, finally, at one of my own songs that I recorded for The
Boatman´s Call album. This song, I feel, exemplifies much of what I´ve been talking about
today. The song is called Far From Me.


                                              FAR FROM ME


                                           For you dear, I was born
                                            For you I was raised up
                                     For you I've lived and for you I will die
                                            For you I am dying now
                                          You were my mad little lover
                            In a world where everybody fucks everybody else over
                                          You who are so far from me
                                                   Far from me
                                                 So far from me
                                      Way across some cold neurotic sea
                                                   Far from me


                                   I would talk to you of all matter of things
                                         With a smile you would reply
                                  Then the sun would leave your pretty face
                                 And you'd retreat from the front of your eyes
                                     I keep hearing that you're doing best
                             I hope your heart beats happy in your infant breast
                                            You are so far from me
                                                  Far from me
                                                  Far from me


                                    There is no knowledge but i know it
                               There's nothing to learn from that vacant voice
                                       That sails to me across the line
                                     From the ridiculous to the sublime
                                   It's good to hear you're doing so well
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                  But really can't you find somebody else that you can ring and tell
                                              Did you ever
                                              Care for me?
                                             Were you ever
                                             There for me?
                                             So far from me


                                       You told me you'd stick by me
                                  Through the thick and through the thin
                                        Those were your very words
                                           My fair-weather friend
                                     You were my brave-hearted lover
                        At the first taste of trouble went running back to mother
                                                So far from me
                                                 Far from me
                               Suspended in your bleak and fishless sea
                                                 Far from me
                                                 Far from me


         Far From Me took four months to write, which was the duration of the relationship
it describes. The first verse was written in the first week of the affair and is full of all the
heroic drama of new love as it describes the totality of feeling whilst acknowledging the
potential for pain - for you I´m dying now. It sets the two lovers it describes against an
uncaring world - a world that fucks everybody over - and brings in the notion of the
physical distance suggested in the title. Strangely, though, the song, as if awaiting the
"traumatic experience" that I spoke of earlier to happen, would not alllow itself to be
completed until the catastrophe had occured. Some songs are tricky like that and it is wise
to keep your wits about you when dealing with them. I find quite often that the songs I write
seem to know more about what is going on in my life than I do. I have pages and pages of
fourth verses for this song written while the relationship was still sailing happily along. One
such verse went:


                                      The Camellia, the Magnolia
                                       Have such a pretty flower
                                       And the bells of St. Marys
                                         Inform us of the hour


       Pretty words, Innocent words, unaware that any day the botton would drop out of
the whole thing. Love Songs that attach themselves to actual experience, that are a
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poeticising of real events have a peculiar beauty unto themselves. They stay alive in the
same way that memories do and being alive, they grow and undergo changes and
develop. A Love Song such as Far From Me has found a personality beyond the one that I
originally gave it, with the power to influence my own feelings around the actual event
itself. This is an extraordinary thing and one of the truly wondrous benefits of song writing.
The songs that I have written that deal with past relationships have become the
relationships themselves. Through these songs I have been able to mythologize the
ordinary events of my life, lifting them from the temporal plane and hurling them way into
the stars. The relationship described in Far From Me has been and gone but the song
itself lives on, keeping a pulse running through my past. Such is the singular beauty of
song-writing.
          Twenty years of song-writing has now past and still the void gapes wide. Still that
inexplicable sadness, the duende, the saudade, the divine discontent persists and perhaps
it will continue until I see the face of God Himslef. But when Moses desired to see the face
of God, Exodus 33, 188, he was answered that he may not endure it, no man could see
His face and live. Well, me, I don´t mind. I´m happy to be sad. For the residue, cast off in
this search, the songs themselves, my crooked brood of sad-eyed children, rally round and
in their way , protect me, comfort me and keep me alive. They are the companions of the
soul that lead it into exile, that sate the overpowering yearning for that which is not of this
world. The imagination desires an alternate world and through the writing of the Love
Song, one sits and dines with loss and longing, madness and melancholy ecstasy, magic,
joy and love with equal measures of respect and gratitude. The spiritual quest has many
faces - religion, art, drugs, work, money, sex - but rarely does the search serve God so
directly and rarely are the rewards so great in the doing.
          Thank you.




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